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October 12, 2012
• Hrazdan, Yerevan
Referee: M. Strahonja
• Attendance: 25000
H. Mkhitaryan 27'
A. Pirlo 11'
D. De Rossi 64'
P. Osvaldo 82'
So, Italy march on with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over a stubborn Armenia outfit. That's all from me, Max Bentley. Good night!
In the other Group B match, Bulgaria and Denmark are level 1-1 at half-time. Italy entertain Morten Olsen's side on Tuesday night whilst Armenia have to wait until March 26 for their next World Cup qualifier when they host Czech Republic.
But as far as Cesare Prandelli is concerned, it is job done. It was not a particularly confident performance by the Azzurri but they have come away with a valuable three points.
For me, Henrik Mkhitaryan was the stand-out performer today. He ran his socks off for Vardan Minasyan's side and scored a fantastic solo effort.
That result ensures that Italy remain at the top of Group B. Armenia slip to fourth, four points off automatic qualification.
FULL TIME IN YEREVAN! Armenia ran the Euro 2012 finalists close but in the end they were undone by second-half headers from Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo. The players leave the pitch to a wonderful reception from the home crowd. Armenia have plenty of positives to take from this performance even if they came away empty-handed.
90' + 2'
Antonio Candreva looks to add a gloss to the scoreline with a fourth goal but he strays narrowly offside from De Rossi's through ball.
There will be three minutes of stoppage time. Will we see a consolation for the hosts?
Riccardo Montolivo's day comes to an end as he is replaced by Lazio's Antonio Candreva. Two minutes remaining plus stoppage time.
Stephan El Shaarawy cuts the ball back for Claudio Marchisio but his shot hits an Armenian defender and the danger is averted.
Armenia are refusing to give up and continue to pour forward in numbers. Vardan Minasyan has every right to be proud of his side's performance tonight.
Assist Daniele De Rossi
Goal D. Osvaldo
GOOALL!! Valeri Aleksanyan gives away a freekick on the edge of the box and receives a yellow card. Pablo Osvaldo meets De Rossi's set-piece with a glancing header which leaves Berezovskiy helpless. Surely that is all three points for the Azzurri now?!
Yellow Card Valeriy Aleksanyan
Another chance for the Azzurri. They break at pace down the right and Stephan El Shaarawy thinks he has scored from a cut-back but his effort is fantastically saved on the line by an Armenia defender.
Italy should really have wrapped up the three points. They counter-attack at pace and Claudio Marchisio lays the ball off to Giaccherini twelve yards out, but the Juve midfielder loses his footing and blasts the ball over the bar.
ARMENIA SUBSTITUTION: Davit Manoyan comes on to replace Artur Sarkisov.
Yellow Card Edgar Manucharyan
Edgar Manucharyan is cautioned for a late challenge on Dominico Criscito.
Golden chance for Armenia to restore parity. Yura Movsisyan gets ahead of his marker to meet a low cross a few yards out but is denied a goal by a fantastic interception by Maggio.
ITALY SUBSTITUTION: Andrea Pirlo, who has had a hand in both Italy goals, is replaced by Emanuele Giaccherini.
Just under twenty minutes to play here at Hrazdan Stadium. Can Armenia find a second equaliser?
Henrik Mkhitaryan has worked tirelessly today and his effort is tipped behind by Buffon for another Armenia corner. Good pressure from Vardan Minasyan's side.
Armenia nearly squeeze in a corner at the front post but Leonardo Bonucci turns the ball behind for another corner.
ARMENIA SUBSTITUTION: Artur Yedigaryan is replaced by Edgar Manucharyan, who plays in Russia for Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast.
Stephane El Shaarawy looks to make the points secure but he is denied by a wonderful block which spins awkwardly and is tipped over by Berezovskiy.
Assist Andrea Pirlo
Goal Daniele De Rossi
GOOOALL!! Italy have been second-best for large periods of this second half but they take the lead through Daniele De Rossi. The Roma veteran meets Pirlo's sublime cross with a thunderous header which strikes the underside of the crossbar and nestles into Berezovskiy's net.
ITALY SUBSTITUTION: Cesare Prandelli has seen enough and he replaces Sebastian Giovinco with Stephan El Shaarawy. This is the Milan starlet's competitive debut.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Karlen Mkrtchyan receives a yellow card for a foul on the edge of the box. Andrea Pirlo's freekick hits the wall and Dominico Criscito rifles an effort just wide.
Yellow Card Karlen Mkrtchyan
Nervous moments for the Azzurri. Aras Ozbiliz cuts inside onto his right-foot and his shot is fumbled by Buffon, who manages to claim the ball on the second attempt under pressure from Movsisyan.
Yellow Card Artur Yedigaryan
Artur Yedigaryan is shown a yellow card for a foul on a corner.
Brilliant save by Buffon! Henri Mkhitaryam skips past his marker for the umpteenth time and sends a cross to the back-post which is met on the volley by Manoyan, forcing Buffon into a splendid stop.
Andrea Pirlo's freekick causes panic in the Armenia box but Mkoyan manages to shuffle the ball to safety.
Henrik Mkhitaryan is proving a real handful for the Italian defence and his cross-come-shot just evades Buffon's far post. I sense there are more goals in this game.
Sebastian Giovinco has looked lively for Italy tonight and he causes problems in the box when he meets Daniele De Rossi's cross. The Juventus man tricks his way past a defender but shoots wildly over the bar from close range. A good chance goes begging.
Armenia have really come out of the traps quickly during this second half and look to attack Italy down the wings with the pace of Mkhitaryan and Ozbiliz.
The second half is underway and Armenia immediately fashion a chance through Yedigaryan strike from the corner of the box. Dominico Criscito is the Azzurri's saviour though as he flings himself in front of the goalbound effort to send the ball behind for a corner.
Cesare Prandelli will surely be looking to make a change if things continue as they did at the end of the first half. Could Mattia Destro or Stephan El Shaarawy prove to be the difference from the bench? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @MaxBentley1.
In the other Group B match tonight, it finished Czech Republic 3 -1 Malta in Plzen.
Vardan Minasyan must be delighted with how his side performed in that opening period. It could be said that Armenia paid Italy too much respect in the opening ten minutes but after going behind, they have more than matched the side ranked 56 places above them in the FIFA rankings and were worthy of their equaliser.
HALF TIME! Andrea Pirlo's spotkick cancelled out by a superb solo effort from Henrik Mkhitaryan. All level at the break.
45' + 1'
Yellow Card Sebastian Giovinco
Sebastian Giovinco is the second Italian to be cautioned after a mistimed tackle on Karlen Mkrtchyan.
45' + 1'
Armenia have one final chance at the end of the half to take the lead but Henrik Mkhitaryan's freekick flies wastefully high and wide of Buffon's goal.
Riccardo Montolivo doesn't appear to have his shooting boots on today as he latches onto Andrea Pirlo's clever dinked pass but again drags his shot wide of the goal. Cesare Prandelli cuts a frustrated figure on the touchline.
Aras Ozbiliz is causing Dominico Criscito problems with his pace down the right-hand side. Could Cesare Prandelli be forced to make a change at half-time?
Robert Arzumanyan makes a crucial interception to prevent Pirlo's throughball and bursts half the length of the pitch to test Buffon with a stinging 25-yard piledriver.
Andrea Pirlo's teasing freekick is headed clear by the Armenia defence, but only to the feet of Giovinco, whose curled effort flashes over the crossbar.
Armenia are looking dangerous on the counter-attack and Aras Ozbiliz ends a marauding run with a well-struck left-footed effort which is smartly saved by Buffon.
Riccardo Montolivo hasn't had the best of halves and has the chance to pick out a cross for Osvaldo in the penalty box but overhits his effort and the danger is cleared.
Italy are looking to use the pace of Giovinco to their advantage and the little man does look dangerous with a series of well-timed runs behind the centre-halves.
Andrea Pirlo steps aside from free-kick responsibilities to allow Giovinco to try his luck. However, the Juventus forward's effort flies comfortably into the gloves of Berezovskiy.
Tempers beginning to flair in this match as Sebastian Giovinco wins a freekick on the edge of the box.
In the build-up to that goal, Christian Maggio suffered a nasty head collision and Italy are incensed that the goal is allowed to stand. The stretcher is on the pitch but the Napoli wing-back looks like he will be able to continue.
Goal Henrikh Mkhitaryan
GOOAAAALL! Armenia have responded magnificently to going behind and they get their just rewards with a goal from Henrik Mkhitaryan. The Shakhtar Donetsk forward seizes on a loose ball and surges past Barzagli before slotting a left-footed effort across Buffon and into the far corner. Yerevan erupts!
Italy play a short corner and Andrea Pirlo swings over a beautiful cross to the backpost where both Bonucci and Osvaldo both somehow fail to make contact. A let-off for the hosts.
Italy are trying to slow down the tempo of the match to allow them to quell this Armenian pressure but they cannot hold onto the ball and Vardan Minasyan's side come forward once again.
Yura Movsisyan sends in a delightful cross but there is no Armenia head to meet it and De Rossi mops up the danger. Italy under pressure here.
Armenia are enjoying a promising spell at the moment and Artak Yedigaryan fires a long-range effort just wide of the post.
Gianluigi Buffon nervously punches a corner away and is fortunate that the ball falls to the feet of an Italian defender.
Much better from Armenia. That goal seems to have sprung them into life and they attack once more down the right but the chance comes to nothing.
Yellow Card Leonardo Bonucci
Gianluigi Buffon is called into action to tip the resulting freekick over the crossbar.
Henrik Mkhitaryan springs to life for Armenia and breaks at pace down the right-hand side before being hauled down by Leonardo Bonucci. The Juventus defender is cautioned.
Penalty Goal Andrea Pirlo
GOOOAALL! Andrea Pirlo steps up and cooly slots the ball into the bottom left corner, sending Berezovskiy the wrong way.
Yellow Card Hrayr Mkoyan
PENALTY FOR ITALY! Osvaldo's backheeled effort from Criscito's low cross is parried back to him and his rebound strikes the arm of Hrayr Mkoyan. The referee books the defender and points to the penalty spot.
Tonight's referee, for those of you who were wondering is Marijo Stranonja from Croatia.
Oh, it should really be 1-0 to Italy! Riccardo Montolivo breaks the offside trap and is one-on-one with Berezovskiy at an angle, but he skews his shot horribly wide of the post.
Cesare Prandelli will be happy with the way his side have settled into this game and they are enjoying the lion's share of possession.
Wonderful save! Andrea Pirlo's freekick curls over the wall and is heading for the top corner but Roman Berezovskiy gets across his goal and produces a wonderful fingertipped save to push the ball behind for a corner.
Sebastian Giovinco's pace is causing Armenia problems early in this game and he wins a freekick just outside of the box. Pirlo range this.
First save of the match for Roman Berezovskiy, who dives down low to his left to foil Pablo Osvaldo's shot on the turn.
The home crowd are trying to get behind their side early in this game and take the opportunity to jeer every Italian player in possession.
Italy start brightly and fashion a chance after only 27 seconds. Claudio Marchisio latches onto Sebastian Giovinco's through-ball but is deemed offside by the linesman's flag.
We have kicked off in Yerevan!
The players are out on the pitch and Gianluigi Buffon sings the Italian national anthem with gusto. Good atmosphere here at the Hrazdan Stadium.
Armenia coach Vardan Minasyan has the highest win percentage in the nation's history with 35.7%. Can his side pull off a remarkable upset against the Euro 2012 runners-up?
The first official meeting between Armenia and Italy is under ten minutes away. What do your think the score will be? Tweet me your score predictions @MaxBentley1.
Marcos Pizzelli and Gevorg Ghazaryan miss out through suspension whilst goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky takes the armband in his 74th appearance for Armenia, the highest-capped player in the nation's history.
For Vardan Minasyan's side, Yura Movsisyan has been given the lone starting berth up front, supported by Shakhtar Donetsk's Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Mario Balotelli misses out for Italy with a bout of flu, meaning that Sebastian Giovinco partners Pablo Osvaldo up front. There is no space in the defence for Giorgio Chiellini but there is a recall for Dominico Criscito. The Zenit St Petersburg left-back was excluded from Prandelli's Euro 2012 squad after allegations of match-fixing but now that he has been cleared of all charges, the 25-year-old is preferred to Federico Balzaretti.
ARMENIA (4-4-1-1): Berezovsky; Arzumanyan, Mkoyan, Aleksanyan, Akt. Yedigaryan; Ozbiliz, Mkrtchyan, Art. Yedigaryan, Malakyan; Mkhitaryan; Movsisyan. Subs: Kasparov, Harutyunyan, Hovhannisyan, Hambardzumyan, Voskanyan, Manoyan, Manucharyan, Badoyan, Yuspashyan, Muradyan, Sarkisov.
ITALY (4-3-1-2):Buffon; Maggio, Barzagli, Bonucci, Criscito; Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi; Montolivo; Giovinco, Osvaldo. Subs: De Sanctis, Sirigu, Abate, Balzaretti, Chiellini, Candreva, Giaccherini, Verratti, Diamanti, Destro, El Shaarawy, Gilardino.
And without further ado, here is tonight's team news...
Italy are looking to qualify for their fourteenth consecutive World Cup and currently lead Group B with four points, having defeated Malta 2-0 before a 2-2 draw away at Bulgaria.
Armenia have enjoyed a relatively good start to their qualifying campaign, beating Malta 1-0 away and were unfortunate not to come away with a point against Bulgaria, in a match which saw them reduced to nine men.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com's live coverage of the 2014 World Cup qualifier between Armenia and Italy. My name is Max Bentley and I'll be keeping you up-to-date with all the action from Hrazdan Stadium in Yerevan. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on Twitter @MaxBentley1.
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